Val Shawcross is standing down as London Mayor Sadiq Khan’s deputy for transport.
The move will prompt a parliamentary by-election in south-east London, and the likelihood of more Blairite v Momentum internal Labour jousting, as Shawcross’s job is to be taken by Heidi Alexander, who has resigned as MP for Lewisham East as a consequence.
Shawcross was previously a councillor in New Addington from 1994 to 2000, becoming the Labour leader of Croydon Council in 1997. This was the administration which delivered the tram network and some regeneration in the town centre.
“She was the best leader Croydon Labour has ever had,” one councillor told Inside Croydon this morning, somewhat pointedly.
In 2000, Shawcross stood for the London Assembly in Lambeth and Southwark, winning election there four times before retiring at the 2016 London elections. Shawcross had sought selection for the Croydon North parliamentary seat – where she lives – in 2012 following the death of sitting MP Malcolm Wicks, but she was narrowly beaten by Lambeth council leader Steve Reed, who went on to win the by-election, and an OBE.
After Khan was elected Mayor in 2016, he flattered Shawcross to come out of retirement by offering her the massive task of overseeing transport issues.
As she has done throughout her career, Shawcross emerged with the respect and admiration of all sides.
“I hope I’ve played my part ensuring our city has a high-quality, affordable and accessible transport network that serves the needs of every Londoner, whatever their background,” Shawcross said today.
Shawcross, 60, had intended to spend more time with her family after 2016, but was flattered to be asked by Khan to take on the deputy mayor job. “After more than 18 years at the GLA, and having steered through the mayor’s transport strategy and five-year business plan, now is the right time for me to stand down. There’s so much I want to do with my husband and my family, and this will give me the time and space to do so.”
Alexander said Shawcross was “a hard act to follow but I can’t wait to get started”.
She added: “London is a fantastic city. I know Sadiq wants its transport system to be the envy of the world and I am looking forward to playing my part in making that happen.”
City Hall said it was not legally possible for Alexander to be both deputy mayor and an MP, so she would leave parliament before taking up her post. This will prompt a summer by-election in her constituency, where she has a 21,000 majority.
Alexander had been part of the “chicken coup” of Labour shadow cabinet resignations in the summer of 2016, aimed at bringing down party leader Jeremy Corbyn.
Today, Corbyn thanked Alexander for her work as an MP, saying she would “put her talents and knowledge to great use for the people of London”.
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